CCAMLR: Another Missed Opportunity to Protect Antarctica

CCAMLR: Another Missed Opportunity to Protect Antarctica

October 29th, 2021: Today the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR)1 – the body responsible for Antarctic marine conservation – concluded its 40th annual meeting, which took place virtually with a restricted schedule.

For the fifth year running, no Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) have been agreed, despite leading scientists and 1.5 million members of the public calling on CCAMLR to protect Antarctica by designating three large-scale MPAs – in East Antarctica, the Antarctic Peninsula, and the Weddell Sea.

The devastating consequences of climate change are impacting millions around the world, and Antarctica and its marine life are on the front line. The biological imperative to protect Antarctic waters has been apparent for decades and ASOC was disheartened that CCAMLR Members could not reach consensus on these longstanding protection proposals.

“We are extremely disappointed by yet again witnessing this missed opportunity to secure what could have been the single largest act of ocean protection in history through the establishment of three vital MPAs in Antarctica. The planet and Antarctica’s precious waters cannot afford yet another year of inaction”, said Claire Christian, executive director of the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition (ASOC)

CCAMLR’s mandate includes designating large Marine Protected Areas that will protect Antarctic wildlife and enable the ocean to build resilience to the climate crisis. Failing to make progress puts CCAMLR’s international credibility at risk. Despite strong support from many CCAMLR Members to agree a network of marine protected areas, during the meeting a minority of countries made extraordinary efforts to undermine CCAMLR’s ability to do its important work, which includes developing scientific advice, reviewing compliance with its regulations, and making conservation decisions.

As nations around the globe make strong commitments to respond to the climate crisis and conserve our ocean, CCAMLR continues to lag behind. In the past, CCAMLR Members have put their differences aside to collaborate and achieve innovative conservation outcomes. Now, we see continuous delays that will impact the health of the Southern Ocean. The world is watching – it’s time to step up and honour commitments to conserve Antarctica for the future”, said Emily Grilly, Antarctic Conservation Manager at WWF.

Just days ahead of the climate COP in Glasgow, the failure of the Antarctic Ocean Commission meeting to protect the last wilderness on Earth is a sobering reminder of how government inaction has led us into the climate and nature crisis. If governments think they can get away with empty promises and wasted time, they are wrong. People around the world expect action to protect at least a third of the world’s oceans by 2030, and together we will make sure governments are held to account. Time is up – world leaders must get Antarctic ocean sanctuaries done” said Laura Meller, ocean policy advisor at Greenpeace Nordic.

CCAMLR Members also agreed to extend Conservation Measure (CM) 51-07, which spreads out the interim catch limit of krill across smaller management units—reducing the impact of concentrated krill fishing on krill-dependent predators. In 2016, the measure was renewed for five years, with the mandate that CCAMLR update or replace it by the end of the 20/21 fishing season. This new measure must protect against irreversible impacts on the ecosystem, including overly concentrated fishing in the Antarctic Peninsula. A new CM was not considered at this year’s meeting because the science needed to develop it is behind schedule due to COVID-19.

Andrea Kavanagh, director of Antarctic and Southern Ocean work with The Pew Charitable Trusts, issued the following statement: “In the 10 years since the East Antarctic MPA was proposed, we’ve watched the impacts of climate change in real time. The evidence is mounting that resilience in the region is needed now.

The addition of India, South Korea, Ukraine, Norway, and Uruguay as co-sponsors of the East Antarctic and Weddell Sea MPA proposals prior to this year’s annual meeting was a positive sign that progress was possible. CCAMLR must act as steward of the Southern Ocean—and fulfill its commitment to establish a circumpolar network of MPAs.

We’re pleased that consensus was reached to extend a krill fishing regulation, which aims to protect krill predators from overly concentrated fishing. But we know from recent science that this measure alone isn’t enough to keep the ecosystem healthy around the Antarctic Peninsula, which is warming faster than any other place on the planet. Given the warming and acidifying waters and the projected increase in fishing in coming years, we urge CCAMLR to work quickly to finalize a permanent solution that ensures enough krill is left in the ocean for animals like penguins, seals, and whales that depend on it.”

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Notes to editors:

The Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition (ASOC) is a collaborative effort by conservation organizations from around the world to defend the integrity of Antarctic and Southern Ocean ecosystems from encroaching human activities. Its mission is to protect the Antarctic and Southern Ocean’s unique and vulnerable ecosystems by providing the unified voice of the NGO community.

Link to Scientist’s letter to CCAMLR Member states ahead of CCAMLR 2021.

The #CallonCCAMLR campaign, is a joint initiative of NGO partners have gathered the support of almost 1.5 million people worldwide for a petition calling world leaders to act now.

The Petition calling for Antarctic Ocean protection is a collaboration of initiatives:

  • #CallonCCAMLR:
  • Avaaz: Save Antarctica’s wilderness campaign:
  • WeMove Europe- campaign to save wilderness habitats for penguins, whales and other precious species:


CCAMLR: The 40th meeting of CCAMLR took place from 18-29 October 2021. The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Living Resources (CCAMLR) was established under the Antarctic Treaty System to preserve the biodiversity of the Southern Ocean. CCAMLR is a consensus-based organization consisting of 26 Members, including the EU and eight of its Member States. CCAMLR’s mandate includes fisheries management based on the ecosystem approach, the protection of Antarctic nature and the creation of vast marine protected areas allowing the ocean to increase the resilience to climate change.

In 2009, CCAMLR member countries began to undertake their responsibilities to establish a network of MPAs throughout the Southern Ocean and established the first high seas MPA on the southern shelf of the South Orkney Islands. In 2016 the world’s largest MPA was agreed in the Ross Sea (proposed by the United States & New Zealand; 2.02 million km2).

Currently, there are three proposals for the creation of new MPAs in the Southern Ocean. Two proposed by the EU and its member states, together with Australia, Norway, Uruguay, the United States, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, India, South Korea and Ukraine: East Antarctic with 0.95 million km2, the Weddell Sea – 2.18 million km2; The Antarctic Peninsula: from Argentina and Chile-about 0.65 million km2.

The protection of these three large areas would safeguard nearly 4 million km2 of Antarctica’s ocean. That is roughly the size of the EU and represents 1% of the global ocean. Together this would secure the largest act of ocean protection in history.